Tuesday, August 20, 2013


But only because he flew away really, really quickly.

Ran a game of TACSHIP because I was curious how it played, and it would be easier to teach than Void Racers. It’s a space fighter game written in 1992 by Jon Tuffley – best known for Ground Zero Games, Full Thrust, and Dirtside. The rules are not complex, and can be played on a hex mat or open table. It’s a generic set of rules that have enough to get you going. You can stat up some craft that somewhat resemble something seen on TV or at the movies, but it requires you to squint a bit. Unfortunately, terrain rules were absent. Yes, space is big, mostly empty, and objects are very far apart, but a few items would have been nice. 

Having recently finished painting some excellent Studio Bergstrom 1” fighters, I wrote up some stats at equal point values per fighter, loaded up the bag, and headed off to the club.

Cobra Mk 1
Total Thrust: 9 (9)
Damage Track: 10 (10)
Survivability Modifier: +2 (2)
Front Fixed Lasers: 2x Laser 2 (4)
Turrets: None (0)
Hard Points: 3 (6)
Total Points: 31

Tarantula Interceptor
Total Thrust: 9 (9)
Damage Track: 10 (10)
Survivability Modifier: +0 (0)
Front Fixed Lasers: 2x Laser 2 (4)
Turrets: None (0)
Hard Points: 4 (8)
Total Points: 31

Total Thrust: how many thrust points the fighter can generate per turn. Points may be spent to accelerate/decelerate before each turn’s movement, and any unused thrust can be used for turning while moving.

Damage Track: hit points, though damage is assigned at a randomly rolled point on the damage track. If damage goes past the right-most box on the track, the fighter has suffered a critical hit and is destroyed regardless of how many boxes are left unchecked

Survivability Modifier: the number added to the damage assignment roll. This represents how resilient the fighter is.

Front Fixed Lasers: at any time during its movement, a fighter may stop and shoot all its front fixed lasers at one target. Roll the distance in hexes from attacker to target, or greater, on a D20. Apply any damage immediately. If the fighter has a turret, they may stop and shoot at the same target or at a different time during the same move, or even at another target.

Hard Points: places to carry missiles, mines, and decoys. No matter how many hardpoints a fighter might have, only a maximum of 2 may be armed and ready to fire (after movement is completed) in one turn.

<< The Sides >>

The Meatbags


Starbuck and Apollo (played by Zak),
and Boomer with Jolly (played by Steve, of Hachiman's Toy Chest fame).


The Appliances

001, 010, 011, and 100.

Commanded your humble author.

Yes, the rules are simple enough to allow first-time players to run multiple fighters.

<< The Setup >>

Partway through the first turn.

An expanse of space cluttered with asteroids. Simple rules: asteroids block line of sight and attacks. Enter a hex with a rock, the fighter is destroyed.

The scenario was a simple meeting engagement with the goal of annihilating the other side. Each ship had a starting current velocity of 9, and the forces were deployed at the center of the opposite long edges of the table.

Before the game, I changed the initiative roll from 1D6 to 1D6 + current velocity. This gives a wider range of values (less ties which then had to be rolled off), and going faster than your opponents improves your chances of going before them. Also, fighters may pass through hexes/spaces occupied by other fighters, but may not end their movement in the same hex with another fighter. Fighters do not block line of sight or attacks.

D20’s for noting initiative next to each fighter and making laser attacks.
D6’s for rolling initiative and determining damage of missiles and mines.
D10’s to note from one turn to the next how many of the required straight hex moves between turns were done.

<< The Game >>

The Meatbags ventured forth aggressively, accelerating to engage their mortal foe: the Appliances - which just brought them under the lasers of the Appliances that much sooner. During the first turn, actually. Most of the action took place on the Appliance’s side of the table, so their Tarantula fighters decelerated a bit to have cheaper turns and more thrust available for maneuvering through the cluttered battlefield.

The Meatbags swooped half their Cobras around to the side, while the rest flew straight across. A Tarantula was soon vaporized, but the constant pounding of laser fire was taking its toll on the both sides.

Boomer was soon taken out by enemy lasers.

Jolly got a missile off only to suffer some damage from an Appliance mine which claimed Apollo. Then Jolly got too close to the missile’s target. The cold and methodical Appliance in its heavily damaged Tarantula calculated that it would be impossible to outrun the missile, so it made the only logical choice: come to a complete stop, use its last thrust point to bring his lasers to bear, and shoot Jolly. If the attack failed, the launcher of its demise would also be caught in the blast effects of the nuclear warhead’s detonation.  

The hail of laser bolts (yeah, it’s the ‘70’s) annihilated Jolly’s Cobra! Now only the missile had to be detonated. Zak rolled a 1 on 1D6, inflicting only 1 point of damage on the Tarantula’s damage track. It survived!

Starbuck, having watched the ruthlessly efficient deletion of his friends, dumped all his thrust points into acceleration and exited his side of the table before the Appliances have any hope of catching him.

<< End of Game >>

Elapsed time, from explaining the rules to end of game: about 90 minutes.

One Meatbag fled the field, 60% intact.

Three Appliances were still on the table, at 100%, 40%, and 20% intact.

Appliance Victory!

Only 1 missile (Meatbags) and 1 mine (Appliances) had been launched.

<< Thoughts >>

There were a lot of victorious fly-throughs of the victims’ explosions - just like in 1978.

With the rules as they are, I wouldn’t bother with missiles on a cluttered table like we had. Mines would have been much more entertaining. Missiles require a bit more room to use.

First laser shots were fired at a range of 13 hexes. Laser fire could easily reach over ½ the table width, if not for the asteroids blocking Line of Sight.

Laser shots made at point blank (1 hex) were automatic hits – that rankles some folks.

Steve said that the game was more fighting speedboats than star fighters - had to agree with him, there.

Yet it can be tweaked just enough to be a good convention and club game, where time is often limited and quick, easy rules are appreciated. There are more detailed space fighter games out there (I was writing one, own a few, and have played a few more) but the “detail vs. playability” balance is quite good. Naturally, a 3D version would be very cool, but that would include more record keeping, and more arithmetic. Math doesn’t go over too well with mildly inebriated convention attendees or gamers pressed for time. It could use some mods, though. Yep, some mods would be really nice about now.

Oh, look!

<< Mods >>

Below are some ideas that may be implemented at the next as-of-yet-to-be-scheduled game. Feel free to experiment and post your results in the comments, below!

> Fighter Design:

360° Turret - Cost of laser weapon(s) + 2 points per laser.
Example: a 360° turret with 2x Laser 1 would cost 2 for the Laser 1s, and another 4 for the +2 points per laser weapon for a total of 6. Expensive, but can shoot in any direction. All lasers in a particular turret must fire at the same target at the same time. Approved!
> Terrain:

Gas Cloud: A +1 to attack’s range per hex/inch the attack must travel through. Approved!

Dust Cloud: A +2 to attack’s range per hex/inch the attack must travel through. Approved!

Asteroid Field: A +2 to attack’s range per hex/inch the attack must travel through. Each hex/inch flown through by a fighter requires
a piloting check: fighter player rolls a D20, and an opponent defends the honour of the asteroid by rolling another D20.
If the fighter player rolls equal to or higher than the asteroid player, the fighter flies on.
If the asteroid player rolls higher than the fighter player, the fighter takes 1D3 damage. Approved!

Big Asteroids, Stationary: Blocks line-of-sight, so not attacks my pass through a hex/space occupied by a big asteroid. A fighter may try to fly though the hex/space occupied by the big asteroid: fighter player rolls a D20, and an opponent rolls another D20 for the big asteroid.
If the fighter player rolls equal to or higher than the asteroid player, the fighter flies on.
If the asteroid player rolls higher than the fighter player, the fighter takes 1D6 damage. Approved!

Big Asteroids, Moving: All the rules of the big asteroid, above, except that at the end of each turn it moves its current velocity (1D3 + 3) in a single direction (across to the opposite side of the table, roll off if two possible directions fulfill that requirement), both of which are determined pre-game, and remain the same for the entire game. If big asteroids collide, they maintain their current velocity, but roll randomly for their new directions. If it hits a moon or larger body, the big asteroid is removed from play. Anything “smaller” (gas and dust clouds, or asteroid fields), and the big asteroid just moves through it, neither terrain item being effected.

The ability to fly “through” a hex/space containing a big asteroids gives it a bit more of a 3D feel.

> Movement:

Sideslip – The fighter moves into either the forward-left or forward-right hex/space and maintains its facing; basically just changing with row of hexes it’s in without turning twice. It follows the same rules, thrust point costs, and restrictions as turns.

Hard Reversal – May only be attempted if fighter’s current velocity is at or under its thrust points. Fighter may not have changed its current velocity this turn. Move the fighter half its current velocity in hexes/inches then stop, and turn it so it is facing the opposite direction. The fighter maintains its current velocity; it’s just facing, and moving, the opposite direction. This uses all the fighter’s thrust points this turn, so acceleration, deceleration, or any turns are not allowed.
> Combat:

D10 Ranges/Rolling – Using a D10 instead of a D20 for combat rolls, this also means that 10 hexes is the maximum range for all lasers. One could just as easily use a D6 or a D12 if it gives the game you want. Approved! 

Rule of One – A to-hit roll of “1” is always a miss no matter what the range of the laser attack.

<< Thanks >>

Thanks to Zak and Steve for playing and tossing around ideas afterwards.

A special “thank you” for “Toaster” on Space Combat News for his Tacship posts!

<< Links >>

TACSHIP by Jon Tuffly at The Society of Fantasy and Science Fiction Wargamers (SFSFW) - http://www.sfsfw.org/a/03/tacship.php

Studio Bergstrom: 1” Fighter Ships - http://studiobergstrom.com/index.php?categoryID=25

Hatchiman’s Toy Chest - http://hachimanstoychest.blogspot.com

Starship Combat News - http://www.star-ranger.com/Home.htm

<< END 100 >>

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